Category Archives: Life curiosities

Dogs vs Humans: a superiority study

Although most of the data for this study comes from observing my dog in his natural habitat, a.k.a. my house, I’ll go ahead and claim that it’s representative. Because it’s my blog. And because I have far more important things to do than study other dogs. Like write this post, for instance.

But I digress.

Over the course of the last six-and-a-half years that we’ve been sharing the house with Pushkin, our Maltese and a namesake Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 6.01.33 PMof a Russian literary giant, I’ve discovered that dogs outweigh humans on superiority scale by a wide margin. (Unless, due to his name, our dog has been channeling the said giant which will make this entire study null and void).

My reasons for thinking that dogs are superior to humans are as follows (and I am sure that once you read through them you will agree with my conclusions):

  1. Dogs know how to convince humans that pooping merits a reward. Pushkin has been getting a biscuit after each walk ever since he learned that his bathroom includes all of the outdoors as opposed to a limited square footage of the indoors. When was the last time you’ve treated yourself to a sweet delight after visiting a toilet? Clearly dogs are ahead of us in matters of celebration of the most mundane of daily actions.
  1. Dogs know that a bed is yet another place where they can take a snooze or retire for the night. Occupying the middle of the bed assures they get enough space from the pesky humans who mistakenly think they are the primary owners of the bed. Pushkin has been allowed into our bed since he turned one even though I protested it tirelessly. But Mr. Me — who normally spends at least a year in front of a supermarket shelf considering all expiry dates before picking the latest one he can find and who never touches a piece of fruit unless its skin looks as perfect as if it’s been painted by Floris Van Dyck – insisted. He had no issues with hosting traces of, first, all of Miami, and now all of Madrid in our bed. You think if another human relieved himself outside, sniffed urine-covered corners, and licked himself, Mr. Me would allow him even close to our sleeping quarters, let alone our bed? Not in a million years. So another superiority contest goes to dogs.
  1. And then there is the snoring. By humans, not dogs. When Mr. Me snores, my most effective solution is to kick him. This shuts him up but usually only for a few minutes after which he begins to snore again. Sometimes we spend the whole night going through this routine and in the morning I am in such a foul mood that approaching me holds the same amount of risk as, say, teasing a hungry shark. Pushkin’s method, though, seems to be more effective. At the first sounds of snoring, Pushkin climbs onto Mr. Me’s pillow, gets comfortable, and begins to lick Mr. Me’s forehead. Since licking of the face is where Mr. Me draws the line of intimacy with our dog, the licking wakes him up and stops the snoring. If he starts again, Pushkin either licks him again or relocates to lie on his chest or his head. In the end one of these approaches works its magic and I get a good night sleep.

See? Dogs are superior beings and I just proved it to you. You are welcome.


The magic of #CosmicConsciousness

On Tuesday morning I woke up to hundreds (!) of Twitter interactions in my nascent Twitter account, @MGokunArt. With the account being live for only a couple of weeks and with just 12 followers, something was happening. And that something turned out to be nothing short of amazing!

Rewind a few days. Deepak Chopra (@DeepakChopra) asked his followers to tweet pictures, quotes, and writing with a hash tag #CosmicConsciousness. He said he’d re-tweet the ones he liked and so I tweeted a couple of my paintings. This was his response to one of them:

A Star DEEPAK CHOPRA Tweet with Painting

Deepak Chopra LOVED my painting! And he tweeted that to all of his followers!

But wait. This wasn’t all.

Deepak Chopra’s re-tweet set off a chain reaction that was least expected… at least by me. His tweet was picked up by @Khunnie0624 — a Thai American singer/actor and a member of South Korean boy band (according to Wikipedia). That generated thousands of likes, re-tweets, and mentions! Here is his tweet:

A Star retweet by @Khunnie0624Now — how is that for the magic of #CosmicConsciousness?

The painting that made me famous — for a day or two at least — is this one:

A Star 500 px (1)

And if you want to be part of this piece of history, it’s available in print here. I’ll even sign it for you if you live somewhere near me! And if I do say so myself… my other paintings are lovely too — so check them out here.



Writing While… Part II

Writing while tri-lingual

I am not trying to brag  (although feel free to post your admiration in comments and send flowers to the address you see below) but speaking three languages fluently is somewhat of an accomplishment. Yet, as I am discovering in my journey of a writer, a bigger accomplishment is remembering which words belong in which language.

When I am in the flow, words just appear. They seem to tumble out of an area of my brain that literally has a feeling for what is needed in that particular sentence. But that area doesn’t seem to distinguish between languages. As a result, I produce sentences with foreign words in them and I don’t even suspect it until one of my readers says: “Err, what does this mean exactly?” Needless to say, I am eternally grateful to those readers – Nicola, Julia, Clare, Miriam, Andrew, David, Sue … you know who you are.

And then there are times when my brain pushes out a foreign word but in this case I am aware that it’s foreign. Yet when I try to find the equivalent in the language I am writing in, it goes all amnesiac on me. So I take that word and I plug it into Google translate. But, alas, as with all things Google—and especially road trip estimates—results are approximate. Which then sends me on a chase through various Thesaurus sites in order to try to find the exact word I feel needs to be there.

Writing while not being a native speaker

I write in my second language—English. Mostly because I never learned how to write well in my mother tongue. The educational system in my birth country valued math, physics, and chemistry above all else. The only writing we did was in our classes of literature and even then we copied everything we wrote. No one wanted to be called stupid for doing it wrong—out teachers’ preferred method of instruction—and so we scouted libraries for forgotten introductions and epilogues. Since there was no internet back then and no way to get caught, we got away with it. But we also never learned to write.

Because I write in my second language I can never actually tell if what I’ve written makes sense, sounds fluid to a native speaker, or even merits reading. But the worst by far is trying to find a metaphor and unknowingly ending up with a cliché. If I had a penny for every time one of my readers pointed out a cliché in my writing I’d have been able to buy a small island already. You see? Even here I could not resist.

And then there is one more thing. I feel terribly self-conscious about my writing—and especially now as I write this post. Because all I am hearing in my head is this:

“Yeah, I can totally see she isn’t a native English speaker.”

And this:

“Her writing sucks.”

And this:

“She’ll never make it as a writer.”

Which is why the next installment of Writing While… will feature “Writing While submitting and getting rejected.”

Writing while… Part I

Lately I’ve been doing a lot more writing.

In my head.

I am lucky if any of that writing ever makes it onto a page or a computer screen simply because I cannot keep that many ideas in my brain at the same time. The idea for this blog post, for instance, appeared about a week ago and it took me seven days, five hours, and fourteen minutes to start recording it here and now. So I am wondering if any of the following ever happens to you and what you do about it?

Writing while walking

Some of the best ideas come to me when I am either in a hurry somewhere or in the pool (more about that down below). I’d be walking down a street to a meeting or a class or some other event that has taken me away from my computer and I’d be thinking about the various topics I’d want to write about. During any one walk I am capable of thinking up at least three topics but I am not at all capable of recording them.

Before you ask – of course, I carry a notebook. And I even carry a smart phone with a handy notes app where I can record my ideas just as easily. But it never happens. Mostly because I am usually running really, really late or because things that I’ve recorded in my notebook in the past never make any sense to me when I read them again. It is almost as if my brain enters a different realm when my legs are moving. But as soon as I sit down at my desk and look at those ideas, I go – eh? Why would I want to write about that? And what does “cousin—&—wiping table with paper—&—jamon” mean anyway???

Writing while in the pool or any other body of water

My gym has a spa that features at least four different pools with various jet streams. Not to mention a sauna and a steam room. So, in short, there is a lot of water—which actually is the reason I chose that gym in the first place.

It happens without fail every single time. As soon as I put on my bathing suit, squeeze my head into a ridiculous swimming cap, and enter any of the aforementioned bodies of water, my brain begins to fire off ideas. New ideas, ideas to help me with pieces where I’ve been blocked for weeks, ideas that seem to come from the left field completely, and ideas that aren’t even mine.

I have nothing to write any of those ideas down and even if I had – I am wet. So instead of relaxing, which is what I am supposedly paying for in this gym, I am sweating trying to memorize the most useful of them. By the time I leave the spa, I am so stressed that I am lucky to remember where my locker is, let alone anything I thought of.

Please tell me I am not alone! Does this happen to you too?

I have a few more of Writing while… so stay tuned for the next one!

The Power of We at a Cellular Level

The cells in our bodies already understand the power of we. They work together every day to make sure that every one of them gets enough nutrients and disposes of waste properly. They work together every day to maintain the delicate routes of communication between the various organs and to ensure that each one of them contributes to the well-being of the entire organism. They work together every day to maintain our body’s equilibrium and to ensure that we continue to live.

If some of our cells go rogue and decide to take over, a cancer develops. Which eventually can kill the entire organism and, thus, kill those cells.

We can learn from our cells. We can learn that working together far outweighs competing against and destroying each other. We can learn that helping each other isn’t against our interests but for them because it benefits the entire humanity. And we can learn that self-regulation for the sake of the whole isn’t about socialism, capitalism, or some other economic system. It’s about survival of our whole organism — the Earth — and our survival on it.

There are about 100 trillion cells in the human body.

There are about 7 billion humans on Earth.

Surely we have it much easier — there are a lot less of us. Where do you want to start?


Wish of the Day

A few weeks ago I moved to another country. Although it’s not something new for me (I am used to moving every few years), it’s still a process that throws me for a loop every single time. Because for me settling in doesn’t just consist of unpacking boxes, finding appropriate school for kids, and arranging furniture to make my new house feel like home. For me settling in means gathering all the pieces of myself that go astray during a move — kind of like pieces of a puzzle — and putting them all together again.

Since I excel at lists, I make sure I write down all the pieces that are missing. I write them down on paper, speak them aloud to Siri, and keep some in my head. And then, knowing that the Universe is right there helping me build back my puzzle, I keep my eyes and ears open for people, experiences, and signs that cross my path. Because you know what? All of them bring along something that can grow into an opportunity to find those lost pieces.

Two days ago my Universe-help alarm went off. I received a review of a piece I wrote on the Absolute Write Forums where writers help writers – and I saw that the reviewer is living in the same city where I now live. Not many list their places of residence under their avatars but this time it was there. An accident or a co-incidence?  I think neither. Instead, it was a beautifully planned opportunity for me to try to get one of my puzzle pieces. “Life is always giving you new beginnings — it’s up to you whether to take them or not.”

And so I wrote to the reviewer and in response received some great information about the English-language writers’ groups in my new city. How cool is this? A writing group is exactly one of the puzzle pieces that I have been looking for!

I’ve noticed that our puzzle pieces re-appear and our wishes come true when we don’t obsess over them, don’t struggle to control them, and don’t try so hard that it becomes tedious. They come true when we let go, then think “would not it be nice…”, and then give the Universe the space to work its magic.

What wishes have come true for you lately?





A travel sketch

You know how sometimes when you change places first your eyes adjust and then your brain picks up the cue that something is different? Like when after driving through a tunnel you exit into a bright sunshine?

I find it fascinating that it also happens when you travel from country to country. Your eyes pick up the difference faster than your brain. And then you get that little jolt of apprehension and you grasp it.

Something happened.

Something changed.

What is it?

This first happened to me when I flew from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Miami, Florida after a year of absence from the US. When I stepped off that plane my eyes immediately told me that something peculiar was going on – something that was new to me. It took my brain a moment to catch up and then I knew it. Miami’s diversity offered a stark contrast to Buenos Aires’s homogeneity.

A similar thing transpired recently on my arrival to Madrid, Spain. Suddenly my eyes were picking up something different but this time it took the brain a little longer to recognize it. In fact, a few days passed before it registered that most women were wearing dresses and skirts — as opposed to pants and shorts that were ubiquitous in the US.

Things I notice, hmm?

What about you? What kinds of changes have your eyes been informing your brain about?








Synchronicity of the Day

I am planning a book. I don’t know exactly what it’ll look like or what form it’ll take or what narrative it’ll assume.  All I know is that I want to write it.  And I have wanted to write it for a long time.

People say that one of the best ways to get a feel for the shape of your book is to read similar books.  Since I have a vague idea that this book will have something to do with my life experiences, I decide to browse some biography books.  And perhaps collections of personal essays. So I head to the local bookstore and stand in front of a biography shelf.

Not immediately but soon thereafter I find three books that sound like they would be fun to read.  All three are in hard cover. I am not in a position to buy three hard cover books at once but I decide I should start somewhere and I buy one of them.

Later that day at home I am going through my own library of books picking the volumes that I no longer need and that I can donate to my building’s library. When I bring them downstairs to the common room that serves as the library I, of course, browse for what I can also borrow to read.  And what do you think I find?

You guessed it.

I find the two books I didn’t buy a few hours earlier and another book that would be perfect for research and fun reading.

The Universe works in mysterious ways and little synchronicities abound.  They are all around, begging for us to notice them.  What for? Well, I have a theory.  And while this isn’t proven statistically, I believe I am really on to something.

I think synchronicities often happen when the Universe is trying to tell us something, push us somewhere. And that somewhere most likely has to do with our purpose in life – our reason for being here on this planet.

  • Have you been wanting to write a book, but never getting around to it? No problem – here are a few books, FREE!, for you to get inspired.  And while you are at it, here is a handy workshop right in your area that will teach you how to start.
  • Or have you been thinking of traveling somewhere but it’s never a good time and money is tight? Not an issue. How about running into people who just went where you’ve been dreaming to go on a shoe string budget and can tell you all about it? Plus, that gym membership may not be your best investment anymore now that you are running outside? Maybe save some cash and go?
  • Or .. what is this university course brochure doing on your desk again? You’ve been throwing it in the trash for the past few years yet it somehow keeps making its way into your mailbox.  Sure, there is a course in there you’ve been drooling over but this is not the right time.  Or is it?

You see where I am going with this?

Open your eyes and ears.  Look and listen.  Pay attention to what happens around you and what happens to you. Do it every day. And then share — what’s your synchronicity of the day?